As a past President of the Ohio Dental Association, I have received many questions, complaints and comments. Some of the most common are “Why should I pay those dues?”, “What does organized dentistry do for me?”. I know that as entrepreneurs, we need to spend our money wisely. There are a multitude of organizations all clamoring for our support. Early in my career I used to ask the same questions.
One common misconception that I encounter is that the State Dental Board and the State Dental Association are interchangeable. The State Dental Board is appointed by the Governor of your state, generally made up of dental professionals, and has as its mission the governance of the practice of dentistry and the protection of the public. The American Dental Association is the national arm of the tripartite that makes up organized dentistry, an association made up of dentists who pay yearly dues to belong. Its mission is to help dentists succeed and support the advancement of the health of the public. The American Dental Association, your State Dental Association, and your local dental society are not a part of the government and cannot set policy or make laws. What they can do is advocate for you. As entrepreneurs and small business owners, we cannot form a union that speaks for all of us and is stronger than we all are separately. But if we all joined an organization that had a political action committee to advocate for us, wouldn’t that be something greater and stronger than each of us separately? That is exactly what organized dentistry does. ADPAC is one of the strongest PACs in the country and each of your states has its own PAC to address issues in your state.
Once I became active in organized dentistry, I discovered the multitude of things that were done not just for members but for all of dentistry. There are so many potential problems that are taken care of before they rise to the surface and affect our professional lives. We must be an enviable profession for so many to want to try to control us, tax us, and take a piece of us! At this point in time, insurance companies and other government entities are constantly trying to change the way that we practice and the way and amount that we get paid. No one has our best interest at heart more than we ourselves do. We need to advocate for ourselves and the only way that we can do that is to band together. The powers that be will not listen to an organization that represents less than half of the profession. That is why the AMA is not so strong any more. If we do not have over half of all dentists as members, we lose our power, our seat at the table. You can sit back and let everyone else pay their dues, just not you. But at the end of the day, who else will do this for you? Who is there if organized dentistry goes away? And how much money do you spend a year on coffee or the latest gadget?
If you still are not convinced, or you just don’t care about advocacy, look at all of the other benefits that membership brings you. Other than maybe Dental Entrepreneur, where can you meet with other like-minded entrepreneurs where no one is trying to sell you something? Where independent dental offices are treasured and their success is everyone’s goal? I have a lifetime of colleagues that have become friends and allies. I save lots of money every month on different insurance products. In my state, we have a buying club that saves money on dental supplies. I have access to contract advice, the latest science on materials and the coronavirus. These are just a few of the many things that are under the umbrella of organized dentistry.
Since organized dentistry is made up of us, it is only as good as we make it. Like everything else in life, it changes as we change. It is now more diverse than ever before but if people from diverse backgrounds are not a part of it, it cannot grow and change in the ways that represent us all.
I was at first very timid to stick my toe in the water and get involved. I did not think that I could make a difference. I probably did get involved for what seemed like the wrong reasons. However, looking back on my path in organized dentistry, I have to admit that I did make a difference, a much bigger one than I ever imagined I could. The power of one, as it spreads through a group, becomes a movement. We are all capable of this. We are definitely stronger together. Please join if you haven’t done so already.
Dr. Sharon Parsons graduated from the Ohio State University College of Dentistry in 1981. She currently owns a group practice in Columbus, Ohio. She is a member of many professional organizations including the Pierre Fauchard Academy, the International and American College of Dentists and The Academy of Operative Dentistry. She was the recipient of the Lucy Hobbs Humanitarian award and the Icons of Dentistry award.